Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Same Ole Prayer

As a pastor's spouse, I am more familiar than most people with my husband's preaching and worship-leading. And since I have attended practically every worship service he has led for the last six years, sometimes his go-to phrases can become rote to me. By that I mean that they lose their meaning, becoming simply "something Matt always says." (I can't imagine how clergy spouses of fifty years feel!)

Sometimes, these repeated phrases give me the giggles. For example, when Matt led The Gathering, an alternative worship service he helped create at Crievewood UMC, we collected the offering by simply having baskets on the altar, into which people could drop their offering when they came forward for communion. To explain how it all worked and to link the receiving of God's gifts (the communion elements) and the giving of our finances, Matt would always say something about giving and receiving and sharing.

If you're a die-hard "Friends" fan, like I am, you may see where this is going. Every week, when Matt started to say these words, I would hear Joey practicing his spiel for Monica and Chandler's wedding: "the giving and receiving and having and sharing..." and I would have to stifle my laugh. Matt would have to avoid looking at me or he would crack a smile too. 

In the four-plus years since then, I haven't heard that giggle-inducing turn of phrase, but I have heard every week Matt's pre-sermon prayer. Despite the fact that I once saw it posted on a congregant's refrigerator (a testimony to its meaningfulness), I often find myself glazing over because I am so used to hearing it that I no longer hear it.

"I wish he'd say something else before each sermon," I'm tempted to think. "I'm so bored of that prayer."
I have to remind myself that unless I have truly internalized and mastered the transformation the prayer requests, I have no business wishing it away. So instead, I am trying to listen to it even more intently and make the prayer my own.

Every week, Matt says:

Lord, make us masters of ourselves
that we might be the servants of others.
Take our minds and think through them.
Take our lips and speak through them.
Take our hearts and set them on fire.

So I pray:

Lord, make us masters of ourselves
Help me to control my tongue, my temper, my frustration, my self-centeredness

that we might be the servants of others.
So I can be a more patient mother, a better wife, a more selfless Christian.

Take our minds and think through them.
Help me to see the world as you see it.

Take our lips and speak through them.
Help me to speak and interact with others with kindness and compassion.

Take our hearts and set them on fire.
Help me to know you and feel you working in my life. 



Matt Kelley said...

I seem to recall you giggling at the phrase "master debator"

Jessica Miller Kelley said...

It was "master baker," I believe.

Chris Reed said...

To be fair ... if you were a teenager anytime between 1985 and 2000 we all laugh at the phrase "master debator"


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